Mexicans remained faithful to the old Volkswagen bug [the air-cooled, rear engine ‘Beetle’] long after other countries abandoned it, and the "vocho" repaid that loyalty by being remarkably durable, adaptable and fixable, Associated Press (AP) reported.

But, AP said, a flood of other small, inexpensive cars has lured away drivers and revealed an awful truth: The bug's time has passed. So the world's last new bug -- not to be confused with the new Beetle -- will roll off an assembly line in the city of Puebla this summer, and some Mexicans are already in mourning, the report added.

According to AP, the bug has been famous for its shortcomings, ever since it went on the Mexican market in 1964, but because it became "the people's car" to a greater extent than it ever did in Germany, motorists just shrugged.

The public loved it for its simplicity and ruggedness, important factors in a country where rural mechanics often come armed with only screwdrivers, pliers and a bit of wire, AP added.

"I don't think any car will ever have the impact, the significance that this car did," Raul Ramirez told Associated Press. "You can find spare parts practically at the corner grocery store, and you can fix them anywhere."

AP noted that the bug, with its air-cooled engine, had a tendency to run hot so Mexico City taxi drivers still routinely prop open the engine compartment with empty oil cans to cool the motor.

AP noted that production for the US market stopped in 1977 because the car didn't meet safety and emissions standards while VW Brazil stopped making them in 1996.

But, AP said, the demise of the bug was due more to other cars' improvements than to its own defects. After more than 50 years on the market, technology and free trade caught up with the bug and surpassed it.

According to Associated Press, in 1994, Mexico began signing a series of free trade and investment agreements, and a host of cheap subcompact cars invaded Mexican dealerships, offering more safety, horsepower and room at prices similar to a new bug's $7,500 tag.

By early 2003, sales of the bug fell to about half their previous level, Associated Press said.

.